Paying Tribute to a Titan of the Anti-Hunger Movement

Triada and Kathy

By Triada Stampas, President and CEO, Fulfill

From almost the first day I met Kathy Goldman, I’ve said she is who I want to be when I grow up.  A trailblazer, a visionary, and one of the founding mothers of the anti-hunger movement in New York City, Kathy recently passed away at age of 92, after a lifetime advocating for people’s right to have the food they need to thrive.

I had the privilege to work with and learn from Kathy during my 10 years at Food Bank For New York City, which she founded in 1983. Her food advocacy work had started 15 years prior, in the late 1960s, with a group of public school parents in the Bronx pressing for improvements in school lunches. Along the way, she started the city’s first school breakfast program, and its first Summer Meals Program. Recognizing there were multiple federal nutrition assistance programs that were not reaching the individuals and families that needed them, she founded the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC) in 1980 to monitor the programs, raise public awareness, and bring about improvements in how they are.

By the time I met her, in the mid-2000s, she was technically retired but more involved and active than many half her age! The work that she initiated had influenced advocates across the country and had set the bar in areas like SNAP policy and outreach, nutrition education, EITC outreach, and, of course, school meals advocacy.

She often reminded me that when she founded Food Bank For New York City, she thought there would be no need for it within 5 years – that by fully leveraging national anti-hunger programs, and by securing stronger anti-hunger policies, there would be no long-term need for a complex and sophisticated charitable food distribution system. Kathy was not one to back down from a righteous fight, and the hard experience of slow, incremental progress over decades, not years, developed into a grit and resourcefulness that kept her moving forward.

She founded Community Food Advocates in 2010 with her longtime collaborator Agnes Molnar to build a movement for universal free school meals in New York City – something she had been working towards since her start in the late 1960s. It is an achievement she lived to see happen in 2017.

Her leadership was to make people believe they could achieve big things together. It is a leadership that is quiet but powerful. She often joked that all she did was hire good people and get out of their way, but in truth, she was the north star – always pointing in the direction of our shared mission, and giving us the encouragement to keep going when we were discouraged by setbacks. Her legacy includes the dozens and dozens of leaders she developed, taught and influenced to fight tenaciously for food security for all.

The lessons I learned from Kathy’s example are still ones I try to follow: keep people facing hunger at the center of the work; bring others to the table and support their leadership; be unafraid to speak truth to power; and never, ever give up a righteous fight. I miss Kathy dearly, but I’m proud to carry on her mission, and to share her memory.